Dawn Michelle is the author of the novel, A Holland Kiss, currently available for free here.
N.B.: Where did you find the inspiration to write about Dutch and Tulip? Are there really giant statues of them in Holland, Indiana?
D.M.: First let me say that Dutch and Tulip are very real to me;) Sadly they do not exist in their 57' form, but that would be great! However, many homes in Holland, and surrounding towns, do have the miniature versions in their yard.
Dutch and Tulip's story, because that's what it is to me, was intended to be exactly what it is: a cute, sweet, awww book. The kind of story that your mother, grandmother or child could read and you no one would be embarrassed by the content or language. (For example, I cannot watch Game of Thrones with my Mom or my kids) It wasn't meant to teach a lesson or push any agenda. It was simply meant to entertain and in the end leave you with a goofy smile on your face.
The 2-story Windmill is real though.
My husband and I like to take goofy little side trips with our family and he brought home a list of the "Nation's Largest". Next thing I know I'm saying, "Wouldn't it be great if Holland had something like that!"
At the beginning of each chapter, clever vignettes show the Dutch and Tulip statues “talking” about what they “see” going on, and especially about Dutch’s desire for a kiss. Is the irony that he will never get his kiss, since they are made of stone and cannot move? Or when they do supposedly “kiss” at the end, does this just reflect the way the restorers have moved them together to where they “should have been 50 years ago”?
They represent a time/place in America where life seemed simpler. Dutch and Tulip are innocent to most of the world faults and issues, very much like children, and obviously very one-minded, as children can often be. In the book they are concrete, but through their conversations they become real. Dutch is waiting for his first "real" kiss. I also wanted a way to introduce each chapter, giving the readers a preview or varied viewpoint from which to see the story unfold. Also, their mis-placement mirrors Lily's lifelong feelings for Jay. So, both stories run parallel. Lily didn't have to wait 50 years, but she did experience something similar to what Dutch was experiencing.
Lily says “Sitting outside with Jay by my side, my ankle didn’t hurt so badly anymore.” Does this suggest relationships have the power to heal, even physically? Does being close to a loved one lead to better mental and physical health?
Jay's nearness certainly did not take the actual physical pain away, but it did divert Lily's attention. Something akin to the power of positive thinking;). Medical science tells us that patients typically fare better when surrounded by loved ones. Women in labor, for instance, rely on those closest to them. (even if that person is getting an earful).
Lily notes about the spoiled milk thrown through her window, “This wasn’t some big city. Things like this don’t happen here.” Cannot bad things regularly go on anywhere? Is there any truth to Lily’s perception that small towns are safer and less wild and crazy than cities?
Certainly bad things happen anywhere, but with a smaller population comes less chance of those things. In reality, Holland IN is a town of just over 600. The residents know one another. Lookout for one another, etc. With that also comes the gossip and intrusion into private lives. A juicy affair, divorce, someone's child causing trouble. Having grown up there I've seen the town rally when a family is in need, but also be right there to condemn those same people. I got my first speeding ticket when I was in high school and my Mom had 3 people call her before I could get home to tell her, so that part of the story is very much real. Having said that please understand that it's a cycle. There is always some other gossip just around the corner. (and usually it's nothing to earth-shattering).
Historically these small towns were self-sufficient, but times have changed and, like in the story, the interstate, school-consolidation really did change the fabric of many towns. People now had the ability to explore more easily, at the same time, coming "home" to the perceived safety of their small town.
Despite Lily’s best, most honorable efforts, small town Holland latches on to her supposed mistakes and castigates her. How should we cope when faced with a situation like Lily’s, where “All I’ve done for the past seven months is work toward a commendable goal and this is the thanks I get”?
For Lily, being targeted by her own town was heartbreaking. At the same time it opened her eyes to her own selfishness. During her time "camping" at the park, she does quite a bit of self-assessment. It never feels good to be criticized, especially when one believes they are working toward something for everyone, but was Lily really doing it for everyone? Not in the beginning she wasn't. For her, Dutch and Tulip represent she and Jay. If she can just save them!
The portions where Lily seems to be labeled a "loose woman" by the town, would absolutely happen in a small town. Your neighbors know who spends the night where and if you're single, as in not even dating, then that would be gossip. It would be made even worse since she's a teacher. We still demand the utmost morality from our educators. Which, in the world we currently live in, is hard to imagine.
Lily appears to realize that “Lord knows I’ve wasted enough time waiting on a man to make me happy.” But is it actually in the end worth the wait, when she gets the guy she loves, even if it took longer than she expected?
It's a bit of both. Yes, it was worth the wait because she did get Jay. And, no, because she had, through some soul-searching, come to the realization that she was in charge of her own happiness. So for Lily, I see her having a better appreciation for the chance she's been given.
Lily says “There would never be another Jay. I’d given him my heart and once you give that away, can you really get it back?” For Lily, fortunately things turn out well with Jay, but other people never get their Jay even after they’ve given their heart. How can the less fortunate cope with the difficulty of getting their heart back?
This is a tough one! "It was the best of times; It was the worst of times." That best sums up love. Lily was fully getting both in this story. She did not have to deal with a life without Jay, but that is not the case for the majority. It's such an individual thing. Some people seem to be programmed to better handle heartbreak. Does that mean it wasn't true love? I'm not qualified to answer, but I do believe in the power of love, but I also believe that not everyone gets that chance. Also, each love differs in degree. A person can love again. That is what Lily was facing, but she knew it wouldn't be the same kind of love.
*Worst answer ever I know, sorry
Lily says about another man, “He met all my criteria for a man, except one. He wasn’t Jay.” Does true love have to take this form, focusing on only one lover to the exclusion of all other people? Or can many people come to fill the role of a lover through understanding, relationship, and coming to each other as whole, flawed people?
Again, far from an expert here, but as a former high school teacher I've seen this. Warning: this is a bit of a rant
Today's society, anything after WII, gives our young people such conflicting messages. DO NOT have sex! Your feeling aren't real, you're just a kid, etc. But, the human body is ready for not only sex, but the emotions of love, so we are putting our kids at war with their own bodies. I fully believe that young people can and do form lasting loves in their teens. The problem that has been created is society telling them no and all the other distractions that we have now. Great-great grandparents got married in their teens and many had long, happy marriages. (obviously not all were happy and there are a myriad of other reasons why divorce was low, but for the sake of this answer) Remember, teenagers as we know them weren't "created" until after WWII. You were a kid, then an adult. Now we have this strange in-between time.
I guess my point is that we live in such a fast-food mentality world that something with that level of finality is a foreign concept.
So, to answer your question, I believe that because of the world that we have created the chances of people being with their "one true love" are slim. Wow! That sounds so sad and depressing!
Because of this, what you said is true...... "Or can many people come to fill the role of a lover through understanding, relationship, and coming to each other as whole, flawed people?"
Again, I do believe that there are some who still get that "Once in a lifetime" we just don't make it easy to find them;)